You might call this a rebuttal to Ty’s guest post, but that’s not quite accurate. I think it’s more of a response, and not necessarily to what he wrote. It’s more a response to his title… “The Future of Information Technology and Me (and You).” I suppose this is my take on the “and You” part of it all….
I’ve noticed the shift, as we all have, in the power and capability of the tech world. It’s definitely true that the technology is advancing and shrinking and becoming more and more amazing. I can’t deny a certain wow-factor whenever Steve Jobs pulls the next stunt, even if it is expected. I can’t deny the hazy attractiveness towards Smart Phones, especially the iPhone and Windows Phone 7. And I’ve even succumbed to the heady desire for certain techs like tablets and netbooks–I won’t deny that I want an iPad.
But even then, I find myself refusing the technological invasion. I see 3D TV as bad, not good. I see most social networking as limiting, not expanding. I see the anywhere/everywhere nature of most technological access as controlling not freeing. And here’s why:
What happened to me?
It’s truly a wonder what the technological world has brought us, but I fear for the rush to digital identity. Anymore, it seems that much of the I of our natures is located out there, instead of inside of us. Our online presence is an extension of who we are, meaning more that it is actually part of us, not just a branch of our internal definitions, and I’m not sure we are designed to exist in such an environment.
One primary concern for me is the collapse of personal relationships. Facebook and other sites have certainly expanded the ability to maintain contacts and friendships, but I’ve always felt that such friendships could take on a superficial, dehumanized nature. Psychologically, personal relationships are key indicators for our overall health (mental, physical, emotional, etc.). Do our online relationships suffice to provide the positive benefits of strong, personal social networks? Frankly, I don’t know, but if I had to guess, I would say not as strongly. (And yes, I realize that the person who only maintains digital relationships is an uncommon and rare beast and therefore the assumption I make is only partially effective at best for almost all of us.)
For me, people matter, and I’m not implying that they don’t for those who choose to maintain online relationships. Rather, I’m stating that I don’t quite feel the same love, concern, and expectation towards a person I only know online. For me, it is the physical contact that maintains, strengthens, and builds a relationship that allows for greatest benefit.
What happened to reality?
On a similar vein, I wonder the invasive nature of replacing what is real and physically in front of us with a constant stream of information. Elder Christofferson stated this last General Conference that…
“… it hardly needs to be said that much of what passes for entertainment today is coarse, degrading, violent, mind-numbing, and time wasting. Ironically, it sometimes takes hard work to find wholesome leisure. When entertainment turns from virtue to vice, it becomes a destroyer of the consecrated life.”
In many ways, I see the invasion of being constantly connected to broad streams of information, content, social networks, and such to be just this. How many times have we (myself included) woken from the stupor of a Wikipedia dive, Web surf, or gaming session to realize that we have wasted the better part of a morning, afternoon, evening, or night in mind-numbing monotony consuming for the sake of consuming with little to no regard to the quality or quantity of the information consumed? Perhaps a more important question is how many times have we found our relationships set aside during those times? From my own experience, I can only answer, “Often enough that I am ashamed to have spent something so precious on something so fleeting.”
It’s surely not evil to be a consumer of information and modern technology, and I certainly believe that the wise consumption of both is important to our stewardship (another concept Elder Christofferson addresses in his talk). However, when consumption is for consumption’s sake, have we gone too far? As Elder Oaks might ask, When the ability to pause, meditate, and ponder is overridden by the consumption, have we passed over the Best to consume the Good or Better?
The benefits of quiet contemplation have long been proven. Psychologists have proven that sleep is an essential requirement for the formulation of long-term memories. In a similar way, the Alpha Waves generated by meditation, contemplation, and even the act of prayer have been shown to facilitate greater emotional and mental health by relaxing the body. Much as sleep “resets” the brain and allows our minds to categorize and process the data of the day, disconnecting from information consumption allows for a similar reset.
Striking the balance
Of course, the obvious answer is neither an utter rejection of these advances nor an outright embracing. I feel that the correct path is in the middle. For me, personally, I am not comfortable with embracing more than I already have. As such, I don’t have a smart phone, I don’t get online but when I have to, and I do my best to restrict my Internet usage to the weekdays while I’m at work. In short, I know my weakness. I know that I could easily spend every moment of every day consuming for the sake of consumption, and so I fall much closer to refusing technology than embracing it.
At the same time, it is important, I feel, to be a consumer. It is important to be informed. How can we care for our world and those around us if we eliminate the best tools to give us the information we need? We’ve come a long way from the ticker tape and radio broadcasts of yesteryear. Doubtless such progress is a good thing, and the increased connectivity can easily be used to bind us closer one to another. But when it goes too far, comes too close, or stays too long, is there wisdom in knowing when to say no more?
And if there is, do we do so?
Your limits, dear reader, are different than mine, and I stand by the idea that our individual uniqueness makes the limits individually unique as well. In this Socrates spoke well: Know thyself! Know for yourself where the line in the sand will be drawn.
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